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Monday, March 31, 2014

John 1:1c--A Contextual Argument

1. John is monotheistic and believed the Shemah.
2. The three clauses in John 1:1 are to be taken as a whole sentence/thought.
3. Theos has a semantic range of possible definitions (e.g., divinely (1), God (1267), god (6), God's (27), God-fearing (1), godly (2), godly* (1), gods (8), Lord (1). in the NASB).
4. Theos with the article is normally, commonly, and usually to be taken as God--the Father.
5. Ho theos (ὁ θεος) in John 1:1b is the Father.
6. Because 1:1c is to be taken in the same sentence/thought as John 1:1a and b that narrows the semantic range of the θεος of clause c. It is predicating that the word was what the θεος of 1:1b was (the Word was God).
7. Since, 1:1b states that the Word and God were together (face to face) and because θεος lacks the article in 1:1c, then 1:1c cannot be saying that ὁ θεος and the Word are identical but are of the same substance, being, quality, or nature.
8. Therefore, The Word is God, but since John believed in the Shemah the Word was not God the Father. One God; two persons. John was at least a binitarian.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Living by Grace Apart From the Law… Practically

In what way are we free from the "law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2); the law of Moses? Positionally only? Or is it also practically? One way to tell is to look at its relation to grace. If we are "under grace" in position only then we are "not under law" in position only. However, if we are "under grace" practically then we are also "not under law" practically. We must look at how grace and law are used in specific passages which contrast the two.

Going through the epistle to the Romans we first need to look at Chapter 3. Here it seems that what is contrasted is the works of the law and justification by grace (vv. 19-31 and 4:13-16). Then we get to Chapter 5. There really isn't much of a contrast here. Grace is first mentioned in verse 2 and is described as the grace that we have been standing in but is not contrasted with the law. However, when we finally get to v. 13 law is there introduced. In vv. 12-20 we see a definite contrast between sin and grace which is introduced and concluded by a brief talk of law. Paul speaks of a time before law (v. 13) and a time in which law came. He says that the law came in order to increase trespasses grace might reign more than death (v. 20). The only contrast of law and grace is that law produces sin and sin reigns in death while grace reigns through righteousness and those who receive grace reign in life (v. 17; 21). This seems to be a usage of law and grace for daily living. If we continue under the law then sin will increase but there is nothing to worry about for grace aboundeth.

Then there is the artificial chapter break of 6:1 where we are asked rhetorically whether we should then continue in sin. Paul answers emphatically, “May it never be!” He then asks another often overlooked (maybe overshadowed) rhetorical question, “How can we still live in sin since we died to it?” Paul continues on in Romans 6:12 compelling us to not let sin reign or to obey its passions. In verses 6-7 we are told the answer to the question “How can we still live in sin?” The answer is we can’t. He tells us that our old body was killed so that we would not be a slave of sin; but set free. Verse 14 tells us that the reason that we must not let sin reign is because sin does not rule us if we are under grace and not under law. So, the answer to the rhetorical question is again that we can’t. Here is a clear contrast where law and grace are both referring to daily living. Understanding that we are not under law but under grace compels us to live lives free from sin. We see the same thing in vv. 15-23. We are not going to continue in sin because we are under grace and not under the law, but this in no way makes us act lawlessly. Instead it makes us act righteously for we are now slaves to God and his righteousness (vv. 15-19).

Moving right along we come to the 7th chapter of Romans. Paul assures us here in v. 7 that we ought not equate the law with sin. Quickly, though, he moves to tell us that the law is the vehicle which sin uses to produce sin and death in us (vv. 8-11). In verse 13 Paul reassures us that the law did not bring death and that it is good in itself, but that sin again uses the law to become even more sinful (sinful beyond measure ESV) and the reason for this is because the law is spiritual but we are of flesh (v. 14). While Paul desires to keep the law and do good—which shows the law is good—he does not keep the law—which shows that it is his flesh or his indwelling sin which wants to break the law. So, again we see that the sinful nature of man works together with the law to produce lawless behavior (18-23).

However, if we continue on to chapter 8 we find the solution to the sin law problem. It is not being without law—lawlessness—but without a certain law. In v. 2 we are shown that we have been set free from the law of sin and death which creates this vicious circle of sin-law-flesh-sin-death-sin by a better law—the law of the Spirit which is about life. Further, in vv. 3-4 we are told that God finally ended this circle—which the law could not do—by condemning sin in that flesh, which so weakened the law, in order that we could fulfill all the righteousness that the law demanded. This is done by walking according to the Spirit and living under the law of the Spirit.  Verses 7-8 assure us that the fleshly minded person, who does not walk and live by the Spirit does not and cannot submit to God’s law and cannot please God. This chapter makes it clear that Paul is speaking about daily living.

It seems in light of these passages that we really are to consider ourselves free from law practically and positionally. In only one of the above passages is Paul referring to only positional justification. The idea he puts forth is that the law causes us to sin—albeit not because of itself but because of our flesh, but the law is part of the equation. Since we are free from the law we are commended to live by the Spirit and by grace.

This in no way makes us lawless. Paul corrects that idea. In chapter 8 we saw that we are to live by another law: the law of the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2 Paul uses the term Law of Christ.  Both the Spirit and Christ are key landmarks (signs) of the New Covenant. When Paul speaks of the law of Christ or of the Spirit he is speaking of the law of a new covenant. In Hebrews we read that since we have a better covenant and a better high priest we need a new law. “For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.” (Hebrews 7:12)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ten Tips: How to Make Christmas Other-Person Centered

Christmas is by far the biggest of all American Christian celebrations. Throughout the year's holidays we spend the most time and effort on this holiday. If we are truly Christians and we are involved in the largest of all Christian holidays we should be most focused on portraying our Christian distinctives. We ought to be paying extra-special attention to how we think about God and how we treat one another. Here is a list, of no specific order, containing some guidelines for being other-person centered.
(Be sure to read the Bible passages.)

1. Write a Christmas list.
While you may not want much (or even anything) in the way of gifts this year, people will still be buying you gifts. Believers want to, by nature, love you. Make it easy for them to do so.
(Philip. 2:1-5; Philem. 1:7; Heb. 10:24-25)

2. Make Christmas Christ centered.
Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season; but Jesus is the reason for everything we do--every season of life. When we are told in the NT what we ought to do it is always (almost) in light of what He has done for us.
(Eph. 5:2, 25; Titus 3:4-8; 1 Jn. 3:16)

3. Un-isolate the family/ies
Though the general sentiment around the holidays is one of joining the families together, there seems to be a temptation to keep as much time alone (as a domestic family unit or an individual) as is conceivable. It is quite hard to love people, as I'm sure all would agree, when you are not near them. Try to keep yourselves from being isolated from your larger physical family and especially your spiritual family. If your plan is to love "one another" then isolation is a bad idea.
(Heb. 10:24-25)

4. Don't buy anything for yourself during this time.
It is hard for people to think of something you would actually like--especially if you are an adult making a decent living. I don't know how many times I've bought something (or was planning to) that I thought a person I love would really like where they ended up buying it for themselves. This is an easy way to stay focused on other people. Make the givers the ones who are more important than you.
(Acts 20:35; Philip. 2:3)

5. Unload your schedule to equip yourself.
Our desire ought to be that we would be used as an instrument in the Lord's hands. Another practical tip for the Christmas season is to be able to spend more physical and mental energy and resources on others you must regulate and balance your time and responsibilities. Free yourselves up to be used by Him to love others.
(2 Cor. 6:4; Rom. 6:13, 7:5, 12:1; 1 Pet. 4:2)

6. Christmas is not a birthday party.
My daughter, who is five, seems to equate Christmas with a celebration of Jesus' birthday. There is very good reason for her to hold this view: most Evangelicals act like they believe this. When we neglect to focus on why Jesus came but rather focus on that he came we will neglect to focus on our Christian duties.
(1 Jn. 3:5; 1 Tim 1:15)

7. The greatest gift you can receive is grace.
Spending too much attention on the material gifts will draw attention away from the superior gift; that we have received forgiveness of sins. If we have been forgiven much we should forgive and love much. Remembering the real reason Christ came and the gift we have received will help us to show grace to those around us this time of year.
(Luke 7:47; John 15:12-13, 17:23-26)

8. Christmas isn't just for family.
Let us remember to extend our time and money, as love, to not only our immediate family; not only to our extended family; not only to our friends; but to those who are strangers to us and enemies of us. Keep an eye out for opportunities to care for people that you would not normally care for.
(Matt. 5:44, 22:39; Luke 6:27, 6:35; Jam. 2:8; Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14)

9. Be a minimalist.
Take a practical approach. Keep it simple. Be flexible. Don't buy a lot of gifts. Let the important things stand out. Love one another.

10. Be content in all things.
(Philip. 4:11)